Where Steppe and Mountain Meet

Overview

Where Steppe and Mountain Meet

This adventure to the Central Asian Steppe and legendary Tien Shan Mountains strips away the enigma of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, revealing a land of stunning alpine scenery and mysterious ancient kingdoms. See modern cities tinged with the remnants of Russian rule, discover snow-crested mountains, lush valleys and otherworldly gorges, explore dusty ruins and follow the Silk Route into the heart of historic Turkistan.

What's Included

  • 10 nights in hotels, 1 aboard a train and 1 in flight
  • 34 meals: 12 breakfasts (B), 11 lunches (L) and 11 dinners (D)
  • VIP door-to-door travel service
  • Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK Branch and additional cancellation rights on overseas holidays for over 50s, or a price reduction if not required (cover is subject to medical questions)
  • Return flights and transfers
  • Saga tour manager
  • Welcome drink reception
  • Porterage at all hotels
  • Tourist visa for full British Citizens resident in the UK

Full Itinerary

Day 1: UK - Astana

After taking Saga’s included UK VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, fly overnight to Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital.

Day 2: Astana

Arrive in Astana and spend the night at the Hotel Kaz Zhol (4Q). After checking in to the hotel you’ll be taken on a tour of the city’s modern side of dazzling skyscrapers – some designed by British architect Norman Foster – and cutting-edge government buildings. You’ll then step aboard a ferry to the see the city’s towering skyline from the Ishim river. Dinner is at a local restaurant. B, L, D

Day 3: Astana - Bishkek

The city of Astana, in a similar way to Washington, DC, was purpose built to be the capital of Kazakhstan. Today you’ll have a tour of the old part of the city, which dates from the era of the Russian Empire, and see Constitution Square, Congress Hall and the National Museum. You’ll also see the huge Hazrat Sultan Mosque. Later you make your way to the airport for your flight to Bishkek. Lunch today will be a packed lunch from the hotel and dinner is at a local restaurant. Stay two nights at the Ambassador Hotel (4Q). B, L, D

Day 4: Bishkek

Explore the city and Osh Bazaar, one of the busiest markets in the city, on an included tour, and also visit Ala Archa national Park. B, L, D

Day 5: Bishkek - Issyk-Kul

Continue your tour to Issyk-Kul Lake, stopping en route at the ruins of Balasagun, once ruled by the Soghdian people and later by the Kara-Khanid Khanate, or kingdom. See the Burana Tower, an important marker along the Silk Road, and a collection of ancient headstones dating from 500 BC. Later on visit a local household to learn about traditional felt making. Stay overnight at Karven Four Seasons (3Q+) or Karven Issyk-Kul (3Q+). B, L, D

Day 6: Issyk-Kul - Karakol

See the petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata, ancient rock carvings depicting local wildlife and hunting scenes – some of which date from the Bronze Age. Tour the town of Karakol and see the Dungan Mosque, which resembles a Chinese Temple, and the distinctive Orthodox church built almost entirely from wood. After this you’ll visit Djety-Oguz Gorge where vast rocky outcrops rise above the forest. Spend two nights at the Green Yard guest house (3Q). B, L, D

Day 7: Barskoon Gorge and Skazka Canyon

This morning enjoy a gentle hike in the Barskoon Gorge, between the steep slopes of the valley and up to the top of the Cup of Manas waterfall. Then, after a picnic lunch, head to Skazka Canyon, otherwise known as Fairy Tale Canyon because of its unusual rock formations – which resemble anything from the Great Wall of China to a hippo! B, L, D

Day 8: Karakol-Bishkek-Almaty

After a scenic drive through Boom Gorge to Bishkek, fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan and spend the next two nights at either the Intercontinental Hotel (4Q) or Royal Tulip Hotel (4Q). As you’ll be arriving late, dinner will be a light supper at the hotel. B, L, D

Day 9: Charyn Canyon

Today you visit the gaping chasm of Charyn Canyon and descend into it for a walk between the sheer rocky walls. Thousands of years of weathering have left the canyon with a number of bizarre rock formations. B, L, D

Day 10: Almaty

Explore Almaty’s Soviet-influenced old quarter and see the Ascension Cathedral, built entirely from wood without the use of a single nail, and visit the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments. Then ride a funicular into the mountains to the alpine resort of Shymbulak, before returning to Almaty to visit the Central State Museum and the Grand Theatre. This evening you head to Kok-Tobe Park, the highest point in the city, for amazing views over Almaty. Catch the overnight train to Shymkent. B, L, D

Day 11: Shymkent

Shymkent is one of Kazakhstan’s most modern and dynamic cities with a blend of Russian, Kazakh and Uzbek influences giving it a unique identity. During your tour you’ll see the archaeological museum and learn about the ancient traders and nomads whose paths led them through the city. You’ll also visit two of its lively markets. Stay two nights at the Shymkent Hotel (4Q). B, L, D

Day 12: Otrar and Turkistan

Pay a visit to the abandoned city of Otrar, once an important Silk Route stopover, and then see the great mausoleum and mosque of Arystan Bab. In the city of Turkistan you visit the stunning Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a revered Turkic poet and holy man. Ultimately unfinished, it’s a glorious picture of artful tile work, imposing masonry and bright turquoise domes. B, L, D

Day 13: Shymkent-Astana-UK

Transfer to the airport after breakfast for your return flight to the UK and your included UK door-to-door travel service home. B

Hand Picked By

Margaret Moulton

Saga are so popular with our clients, with all those little details taken care of, like complimentary VIP door-to-door transfers on all long haul holidays and selected escorted tours and also optional included travel insurance. This makes Saga such great value for money.

Margaret Moulton

Additional Information

  • Date: August - October 2019
  • Board Basis: Full Board
  • Duration: 12 nights
  • Departure Airport: London Heathrow
  • Guide Price: 2499pp
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